What’s The Role for Government?

Should the government protect traditional industries or encourage innovation initiatives?


The term ‘Luddite’ is almost always used negatively, a way of describing someone who’s scared of the future and the technological advances that go with it.

‘Luddism’ was a movement borne out of the East Midlands in the United Kingdom. Skilled craftsmen, who were once in demand, found their livelihoods in danger when labour-saving technology was introduced. This meant that their average wage decreased significantly, consequently resulting in considerable unrest and tension in the workforce.

Whilst today’s workers are unlikely to resort to the violence that the ‘Luddites’ did, the emergence of robotics and new technology in general has meant that there are certain industries that are in danger of being eroded just like the textile industry was in 1811.

From a governmental perspective, the amount of industries caught up in the tech-boom can be looked at from two perspectives. The first is unquestionably positive, the advancement of new technologies has the capacity to improve the electorate’s well being, whether it be through improved healthcare or environmental initiatives.

On the other hand, many traditional job recruiters have gone through a period of upheaval. For example, bricks and mortar booksellers have been made almost redundant with the popularity of Amazon.

Whilst it’s easy for people to sit back and say that this is OK and that it’s up to the people involved to retrain their skills, it’s a worrying time for those who’ve spent their entire careers becoming an expert in a field that’s slowly becoming redundant.

In Australia for example, the workforce will be diminished and older. It’s likely that this will create considerable tension between those who are comfortable with the status quo and people who are looking to use new platforms which speed up processes and make their company’s more profitable.

This will put the government in a difficult position, do they choose to prop-up an industry that’s faltering or just let everything run its course?

Uber is an example of an industry that’s caused unrest. In London last week, there were staged protests by traditional taxi drivers against the American car-company. Uber has disrupted the taxi-industry, driving down prices and increasing convenience.

If the government were to make Uber illegal there would definitely be a backlash, and this demonstrates the precarious position that the government finds itself in. Do they help traditional industries or protect the interests of the general public?

My guess is they’ll be forced to do the latter.


Read next:

Panel Session: The Cultural Shift